Texas Workforce Commission Issues Proposed Rules Excluding Certain Gig Workers From the Definition of “Employment” Under Texas Unemployment Laws

The issue of whether workers who utilize online digital platforms to obtain business and deliver services to third parties are employees or independent contractors has already been subject to much debate and litigation. In the growing gig economy, questions surrounding these issues can create uncertainty for both businesses and gig workers.

San Antonio Mandates Paid Leave for Private Sector Employees: 14 Key Facts About the New Law

On August 16, 2018, the San Antonio City Council voted 9 to 2 to adopt a paid leave ordinance which will require all employers in San Antonio to provide paid leave to their employees. The ordinance requires employers to provide paid leave to be used for specified reasons for employees’ and their family members’ health-related issues.

Fifth Circuit Rules Employers Are Not Always Protected From Liability Resulting From Harassment by Nonemployees With Diminished Capacity

Courts have ruled that employees who work with clients with diminished capacity present different challenges when establishing whether the nonemployee’s alleged harassment affected the terms and conditions of the employee’s employment. But where is the line on what can constitute actionable harassment when the alleged harasser is a nonemployee with diminished capacity?

Absence Does Not Make the Heart Grow Fonder: Texas Court Holds Attendance Issues Can Preclude Disability Claims

In Wolf v. Lowe’s Companies, Inc., No. 4:16-CV-01560 (March 13, 2018), United States District Judge Alfred H. Bennett of the Southern District of Texas granted Lowe’s motion for summary judgment on a former sales employee’s claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for disability discrimination and failure to accommodate, as well as her claim under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for retaliation.

Fifth Circuit Emphasizes Narrowed Liability for Employee Transfer Under the Louisiana Whistleblower Statute

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana’s grant of summary judgment under the Louisiana whistleblower law, Louisiana Revised Statutes section 23:967, in favor of an employer that transferred an employee to a less desirable location after revealing concerns about her employer’s handling of a diabetic student.

Austin’s Earned Sick Time Ordinance: 8 Things You Need to Know

In the early hours of February 16, 2018, the Austin City Council passed a new ordinance on earned sick time that affects employers in Austin, Texas. The ordinance will not take effect until October 1, 2018, and is likely to be challenged in court almost immediately. Nevertheless, local employers should be aware of the basic requirements of the law so that they can prepare for the possibility of enforcement this fall. Likewise, employers in other cities should keep informed on this issue as sick leave laws are becoming more prevalent across the country.

Fifth Circuit Upholds Jury Verdict in Constructive Discharge Case due to Employer’s “Shifting Reasons” for Its Personnel Decisions

In Delaronde v. Legend Classic Homes, Ltd., No. 17-20027 (January 18, 2018), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s denial of an employer’s post-verdict motion for judgment as a matter of law, finding that the jury had been presented with sufficient evidence to conclude that sex discrimination had motivated the transfer of a female sales associate for a Houston-area home builder from a successful community where she had achieved more than $3 million in sales to a very challenging community where the home prices were the lowest of any of the builder’s properties.

The Not-So-Elusive 12(b)(6) Dismissal: Fifth Circuit Shoots Down Retaliation Claim Based on Single Text Message

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the dismissal of a Title VII retaliation claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim where the plaintiff premised her retaliation claim on her earlier filing of an internal complaint of harassment based on a single allegedly offensive text message.

Can Your Workplace Weather the Storm? 6 Questions to Consider as Hurricane Harvey Makes Landfall

If weather reports are accurate, by the time it makes landfall, Hurricane Harvey stands to be the first major storm to hit the United States in more than 10 years. Harvey, which as of this writing is a category three storm in the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to make landfall on Texas’s central coast late on Friday, August 25, 2017, or Saturday, August 26, 2017.

Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code Does Not Incorporate ADA’s Prohibition on Release of Confidential Health Information

Texas courts interpreting Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code generally attempt to interpret it consistently with federal anti-discrimination laws and frequently look to federal court decisions for guidance. However, differences do exist between Texas and federal anti-discrimination laws. One recent case explored the differences between Chapter 21 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) related to claims for release of confidential health information.

Is Never Returning to Work a Reasonable Accommodation? Fifth Circuit Says No

On March 15, 2017, in Moss v. Harris County Constable Precinct One, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that an employer is not required to accommodate an employee who is requesting indefinite leave as a reasonable accommodation. Robert Moss, who was a deputy with Harris County Constable Precinct One for 16 years, claimed he had been wrongfully discharged in 2013 while on leave following back surgery. Moss claimed his discharge was a result of both his disability and his political speech against then-candidate for constable Alan Rosen.

Texas Court Finds Overtime Restrictions Could Be a Materially Adverse Employment Action in FLSA Retaliation Claim

The Texas Court of Appeals for the Fourteenth District recently reversed and remanded a judgment in favor of an employer on an employee’s claim of retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court found there to be a genuine issue of material fact as to whether a change in the employer’s stated overtime policy, which was implemented after the employee filed an overtime lawsuit against the employer and applied only to that specific employee, constituted a materially adverse employment action.

Fifth Circuit Denies Punitive and Compensatory Damages for ADEA Retaliation Claims, Creates Circuit Split

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, recently found that punitive and compensatory damages are not available for retaliation claims brought under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The ADEA already provides for liquidated damages equal to the amount of lost pay and benefits for “willful” age discrimination. The standard for finding a willful violation to award liquidated damages is quite low, resulting in the routine award of what is, in effect, double damages in ADEA cases.

Watch Your Language: Texas Court Highlights the Importance of Language in Noncompetes

Texas law permits businesses to utilize noncompetition agreements to protect their legitimate business interests in certain circumstances. Companies, attorneys, and the courts generally focus on the consideration that must be exchanged in order for the parties to create a legal, enforceable noncompetition agreement. However, since courts analyze noncompetition agreements under standard contract interpretation principles, the language beyond the exchange of consideration can also be critical to the enforceability of a noncompetition agreement. A recent case from the Court of Appeals of Texas in Texarkana highlights this importance.

Texas City Joins Growing Ranks of Cities Raising the Minimum Wage to $15 Dollars

Taking its cue from other, larger cities, San Marcos, Texas, recently voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 dollars per hour for businesses applying for tax breaks and others incentives to build or expand in the city. In addition to the higher wage, businesses must also offer all employees and their dependents benefits equal to those offered to full-time employees.

The Rising Minimum Wages and Tip Credits for 2017: An Overview

Effective January 1, 2017, 29 states plus the District of Columbia will have minimum wage rates that are above the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour. The District of Columbia will continue to have, as it did last year, one of the highest minimum wage rates in the country at $11.50 per hour until July 1, 2017, and $12.50 per hour after that date. With respect to state minimum wages, Massachusetts and Washington will have the highest minimum wages at $11.00 per hour effective January 1, 2017, with California close behind at $10.50 per hour (for employers with 26 or more employees), effective January 1, 2017, and Connecticut following at $10.10 per hour, effective January 1, 2017.

The Texas Two-Step: Fifth Circuit Withdraws Ruling that Allowed Texas to Proceed with EEOC Background Check Lawsuit

The legal showdown between the State of Texas and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over the agency’s background check guidance took another turn on September 23, 2016, when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order withdrawing its previous June opinion and remanding the case to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The June 2016 opinion had allowed Texas to proceed with its lawsuit against the EEOC. This order comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc., 136 S.Ct. 1807 (2016), which examined when a federal agency’s decisions can be challenged in court.

Fifth Circuit Broadens Exceptions to At-Will Employment

On August 8, 2016, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recognized a new public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine, allowing a former employee to sue his employer for terminating his employment for legally storing a gun in his car on company property in a publicly-accessible parking area. 

Fifth Circuit Enforces Delegation Clause, Directs Arbitrator to Determine Whether FLSA Case Should Be Arbitrated

In a recent ruling, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s refusal to enforce an arbitration agreement’s “delegation clause” requiring the determination of arbitrability to be decided by an arbitrator. Whether the arbitration agreement applied to an employee’s pre-existing Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claim was a legitimate question, the court found but one that should be answered by an arbitrator and not a judge.

Poor Policy Publication Revives Sexual Harassment Suit in the Fifth Circuit

Maintaining a company anti-harassment policy on a bulletin board and website is not enough to avoid liability for sexual discrimination according to a recent decision. On July 20, 2016, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals revived a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a school board’s clerical employee who alleged inappropriate comments and touching from a manager. While the board’s policy manual contained reasonable policy and complaint procedures to prevent harassment, the court found evidence the board made insufficient efforts to train the alleged harasser and other employees about such policies. This case clarifies the scope of an important affirmative defense for employers and demonstrates the importance of clearly explaining policies to employees.